Scott Kazmir on track to return next week, but will his raw stuff come back?

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Scott Kazmir admitted to being “very surprised” by the Angels’ decision to place him on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. Instead of beginning the season in the rotation Kazmir threw 77 pitches in a minor-league game and reported afterward that he felt “real good.”
Kazmir is scheduled to start another minor-league game Friday and then expects to rejoin the Angels with a start against the Yankees next week. “No doubt in my mind,” Kazmir said. “I felt I was ready but, at the same time, I didn’t get that many innings [during spring training]. This just gives me more time to work on things.”
Hopefully he gets healthy, because I’m very curious to see how Kazmir fares in his first full season with the Angels. His raw stuff appeared to be on the decline while in Tampa Bay, but after the Rays traded Kazmir and the $24 million remaining on his contract to the Angels at midseason he turned things around, flashing increased velocity while posting a 1.73 ERA in six starts.
Kazmir led the league with 239 strikeouts as a 23-year-old in 2007, and while he’s still just 26 no longer seems to have that type of upside. His strikeouts per nine innings have gone from 10.4 to 9.8 to 7.1 in the past three seasons and last year batters made contact on 82 percent of their swings against him after previously never topping 76 percent. Kazmir also averaged a career-low 91.1 miles per hour with his fastball, which is one full mph lower than in 2007.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.